tv The Presidency White House Stonemasons CSPAN July 5, 2018 6:58pm-7:50pm EDT
another procedural vote on the nominee to be the pentagon's general counsel. when the senate is back in session monday, live coverage on our companion network, c- span two. next on american history tv. white house historian william seale discusses the scottish stonemasons. who helped to the white house and the exterior carvings that are still visible to the state. mr. seale is the author of a white house of stone, building america's first ideal in architecture. from a symposium on british and irish connections with the white house and hosted by the white house historical association, this is 45 minutes. the next session is one that is special for me personally. as a 10th generation scottish american, the story of the scottish stonemasons and the white house is very meaningful and important. our presenter for the session, dr. william seale, literally wrote the book on these
masterful craftsman, available to you today in our shop, if you would like to use your 10% discount. he will also be at the reception this afternoon and will sign your copy of the book for you. this is a wonderful book that tells the story of the scottish stonemasons and the work you can still see evidenced on the white house today. we're also honored to have an actual scottish stonemason, is chuck with us? chuck jones -- he is in the back. if you have not been to the blue tent to see his masterful work, please take time to do so between sessions or during the reception this afternoon. about a week ago, that was a solid block of stone that had originated in the aquia quarry for the original white house stone. thanks to our friends at the national park service, they have been assisting in
converting that block of stone to the beautiful double scottish rose you will see under the blue tent in the back. for the past several days, this has been carved in the pony shed on the south lawn of the white house and was just today moved here and they have continued their work, and you see it in practice today. the idea of chuck joining us for this symposium evolved from a meeting i had in edinburgh last summer with fiona hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs for scotland. while she could not be with us today, we are honored she sent us a video message that affirms the story of the scottish stonemasons and the importance of the story in the u.s. and scotland. greetings from scotland. i am very happy indeed to be able to contribute to the white house historical association's symposium for 2018, which will celebrate the historic
relationship between the united kingdom, ireland, and the united states of america. the bonds of friendship which stretch across the atlantic are found throughout the pages of history, and will be further explored in the presentations for this year's symposium. when i met your president, skip mclaurin, last year, i was interested to learn about the role scottish stonemasons had played in the construction of the white house, which means the links between our two countries are in a very real sense embedded in the walls of the home of every american president since john adams. the story of how this came about is compelling. on october 13, 1792, the group charged with building the president's house laid a cornerstone in a simple but dignified ceremony. the plate between the stones listed the names of the district's commissioners, the architect james hoban and collen williamson, the master
scottish stonemason. williamson had emigrated to new york and was teaching the five orders of architecture in new york city until his cousin, john souter, recommended him to the commissioners. souter was running the fountain inn in georgetown at the time, which is where the commissioners were staying and conducting business. williamson was brought on, and despite some competition between the irish architect and the scottish master stonemason, they made quick progress on the home's foundation and ground- level. while williamson would leave the project, he had made a major impact on the commissioners. the white house needed more stonemasons from edinburgh to complete the task at hand. as a result, george walker, a philadelphia merchant, journeyed to scotland to find and recruit stonemasons for the white house. he found himself in edinburgh, where construction projects had halted because of the war with revolutionary france. walker courted james and john
williamson, possibly relatives of collen williamson, who connected him with the grand lodge of scotland, lodge 8 in edinburgh. six members of the brotherhood, along with the williamson brothers decided to take up walker's offer of work in the american capital. by summer of 1794, the scottish stonemasons got hard at work on the outer walls. they finished the majestic house of stone by the end of 1798. afterward, some stayed and worked on the u.s. capitol building. others, such as the williamson brothers, returned to edinburgh to finish their projects. regardless of where they ended up, their legacy has been forever cemented in the facades and porticos of the white house. tens of millions of visitors have glanced above the north door to see the double scottish roses, carved acorns, oak leaves, and matching griffins. this is their house, as well.
here, in edinburgh's newtown, several homes still survive that were built by the very same stonemasons that worked on the white house. there are currently plans underway by the white house historical association and historic environment scotland to install commemorative plaques at these sites to tell the story of these master craftsman and the truly international reach of their work. i look forward to welcoming our friends from the white house historical association to celebrate these plaques representing our historic ties in due course. the ties between our two countries are long-standing. they are deeply embedded in our respective cultures and provide a bedrock upon which to build our future relations. it is in the spirit of our shared and rich past, that i wish you all the best for a successful symposium.
[ applause ]in fact, there is more recent news since the recording of this video. we have received word that a plaque will go up at 66 queen street, one of the sites in newtown in edinburgh where the stonemasons worked when they returned to scotland. we will look forward to visiting that in the upcoming year. now please join me in welcoming dr. william seale, one of the great american historians, and i believe the definitive authority on white house history. the author of many books, many published by us. he is the editor of our quarterly white house history journal. dr. william seale. thank you very much. i am going to talk about, as the program suggests, the stonemasons on the white house. for some context, i am
delighted with my predecessors here who have covered some of that and new views on it. to begin with, we are in a scottish area where all of this took place to begin with. the towns of alexandria and georgetown were incorporated into the site george washington selected for the capital of america. they were both settled by scots, and run and operated by scots. so it was not unusual that they would look to scotland. we know the shops were supplied with materials from scotland, and so washington put this plan here in an area he had long admired, long before the
revolution. businesspeople had seen that this site is about 400 miles from the sea, from the ocean and you could come here on a sailing ship. this is probably the deepest you had come into the interior in colonial america. this was very deep. that's why these two towns were founded, and just below the first of the rapids, everybody knew that the potomac would go way into the interior and would eventually join the ohio and mississippi. it wasn't part of the country when this happened, but it happened very soon after the white house was finished. washington selected this site because he wanted a great city, a city that was a capital in the sense that paris was a
capital. so he was humored. he appointed a commission of planters, the most unlikely people he could have gotten, who had no knowledge of architecture at all. i can't think of much they did, except that one of them had 18 children. so he was pretty fit. [ laughter ] james hoban and washington met in charleston. it was probably arranged. he was prominent there, and all of the men, the five men who recommended him, knew him and all were involved in society there. james hoban had built buildings in the town. there's almost no documentation of what he built.
the court building seems likely, since all of his recommendations were on the board of the building of the courthouse. he was taken out to hampton, the plantation, where a portico had just been added. it looks like him. whatever the case, he shook hands with washington, and washington came back and told his commissioners that he had met a man in charleston, and he was obviously very good and had many lands of his own. an american qualification. hoban quickly headed to philadelphia to meet with washington. it was a successful meeting. a competition was held for the president's house. it was fixed. there were many curious entries. one had a throne in it. all sorts of buildings were
proposed, some by major architects, one of them the great carver from new england. but hoban, of course, won. washington came down and hoban was actually working in the commissioner's office. so washington won. they cut the plan down, the house would've been four times the size it is now. l'enfant's plan called for a grand avenue outside decatur house. it came from three streets and joined as one with gates and the mansion and the usual idea of french palaces. this did not work, but washington was going to have his house. he also realized it was more likely to be able to finish that house than the capital. when the plans were being made for reducing the house, he would not step back from the carving, the carving was
personally very important to him. that had to be kept. as hoban was an easy man to get along with, had different ways of doing things, and as it happens as the way the world works, at a meeting at the fountain inn, john souter overheard one of the meetings and realized they were after stonecutters. he told them he had a cousin named williamson who was working in new york, from scotland. williamson hurried down and they turned the whole thing over to him, the whole project. although hoban was the head man. williamson was from the highlands. one of his recommendations was that he worked for the grant family, a powerful landholding family. his patron, sir ludwig, had a
little bit of a drinking problem, and they got half finished with the house he was building for the daughters, and his son james took over the estate and went to court and took away from him and fired williamson and hired the adams brothers to finish this modest country scottish mansion. it burned about 15 years ago. williamson always mentioned his patron, sir ludwig. people in these days knew the upper-class in europe, they all knew about them. like we do movie stars, i guess. williamson took over. he was a personality, he was older than the other people involved, and he had an impatience that did not serve
him well. but he built the basement around the white house with beautiful rustication that has survived all these years and hasn't needed much restoration. the commissioners, he and hoban, hoban being irish, they just did not get along. williamson said that hoban hired every irish vagabond he came across to work on the place. hoban did have trouble with workers. they came in in huge numbers and they were all irish, of course. williamson observed how they drank and cursed and partied all night, and there was even a brothel opened beside the white house in the grounds. it was very nice. [ laughter ] the commissioners
were scandalized, so hoban went defend betsy, the madam. they compromised by moving the brothel just outside of the grounds of the white house. so it continued in operation, and she was washington's first, i think. there was a lot of battling. hoban was no dummy. he organized a militia and the workmen all joined it. if they didn't, they got their pay docked. he mustered them every week. every sunday afternoon they were mustered. if they did not please him, he fined them and collected it out of their pay. that's how he controlled the workmen. well, williamson cannot stand it. the commissioners thought williamson was too much trouble. they asked a friend, a scot
from edinburgh, who lived in georgetown who had stores in philadelphia and georgetown, they asked him to take letters to europe for them. they have tried this with the french and were advised, don't do it. the french will not like this, they will think the americans are meddling. so george walker, a very irritable old man, took the letters to edinburgh. his contact was dead. they had a friend in philadelphia who was a well- known stonemason, and a friend of jefferson, and he aspired to be a sculptor. he had great connections. he recommended this man in edinburgh who had died. the widow led him to other people, mainly to the masonic lodge, believed to be the
oldest in the world there in edinburgh. and in a sort of sub-lodge within the masonic lodge, lodge #8 was an operative lodge, meaning working stonemasons. here he found the crhme de la crhme of stonemasons in edinburgh. they were working on newtown, a city development by the adams brothers that stepped down the hill, a beautiful neighborhood, flat carvings and so forth. if you were a stonemason or anybody, you had to build the front of the building as the adams brothers specified, then you could build the back like you wanted to and put it on the market. these men were real estate speculators. they had the wherewithal to do that and did it. the moratorium in 1793 of workmen, skilled workman of any
kind, leaving britain, put them out of business. not really, they held on, but they had to get out and get some income. so they agreed with walker and came to america. i don't know how many totally came, but seven of them we know pretty much as individuals. they would have fled from the western coast of scotland. we know they landed in norfolk, and apparently walked to washington. they were in good shape. there they were. i would like to start with these slides now. the upper circle is where washington was being built. down river, the potomac is a twisting river. down river is a quiet creek which runs back into it, it is
navigable. later famous for a civil war encounter, but in our case, there was a little quarry there, called aquia quarry in operation since 1699. it was owned by the brent family, old settlers, associated with maryland and mistress brent, who stood before the legislature and demanded her rights as a woman to do business. not only did she do business, she was granted the governor's business. so she is one of the legends. she owned it. well, george washington was a patron. he had door steps made there, pavers, all sorts of things. i will figure this out. there. these are pretty random.
you should read it fast. this is collen williamson's original contract. the commissioners were so excited to get a stonemason, they just turned it all over to him. here is a quiet creek where it was dug out, and in the quarry was a sort of mound of stone that you see, it is cut into. that's where they started taking the stone out of, and they would ship it down the creek to the river and put it on barges and pole it, stick close to the shore, and pole it up the river 35 miles to washington. when they got to washington, there was a special stone landing on the creek. they took a subsidiary creek
and made locks, and the stones were lifted and oxen took them to the building site. please remember how heavy the stones were, extremely heavy. they had none of the conveniences we do. here we are in the quarry again. here are some apparently inferior stones, this is a wonderful one here with a tree root running through it that split it. the first issue was splitting the stone. it was sandstone. here is the only house i know of ever built out of it, and that is just a facade. that was replaced today by limestone, but originally it was sandstone. it was so deteriorated in 1976 that they replaced it with limestone in the restoration.
you would be interested to know that general braddock came here, it was the home of john carlisle, a prominent scot, one of the leading people of alexanderia, and general braddock was heading to what would become the french and indian war, and stayed there. a wonderful thing happened in 1976, in the family home in scotland, the papers were found that told about the visit. it was kind of legendary by that time. he did visit there, and john carlisle said he ate him out of house and home and ruined his grounds and how terrible it was. anyway, there he met with young george washington and washington went with them out king street, and on to leesburg and to the ohio river. that happened in this house,
and it is still there in alexandria. if you can forgive the limestone, please see it if you can. christ church in alexandria, was built with a trim of a quiet sandstone. you see it is painted. it always had trouble with the weather and the scots realized that when they got there. it is brick and limestone still a practicing church. through war and civil war and always protected because this is where george washington worshiped. one of two churches, a country church near mount vernon and this one christ church. it had very few changes over the centuries. it reminds me inside of what you see you in bermuda or in barbados, wherever the english were.
they built this kind of church. i urge you to see it. it had -- i did something wrong. there we go. here you can barely see it they have split between two rocks. in the process at a quiet and this is stafford county, and zane o'connor had created a wonderful park there. and it is highly desirable residential area quick but it is just as they left it when buildings were built here -- evidence of their work and how they did it. here we go. here is some of the workmen and the sketches that the association had done. you can see this is sticks,
maybe some of them are iron. they ordered spikes and he drives these in an it naturally splits the rock. then as the rock gets reduced to the sizes they want, the stonecutters have told them, going on the plan, papers that never survive from building. the drawings and all of that. here at a quiet park you can see the -- we have owned this since 1791. you can see the spikes went down here. sometimes it was a stick and they drove it down and poured water on it. it split and usually the split was pretty good, pretty smooth. here we are on the drawings. i have a critic who was told to
keep his mouth shut. who said there would have been six oxen. i wasn't there, but i don't know. this is the stone and very simple cranes that they used to move it. these are taken and you can still see where it slants down to the creek. they were loading onto these stone boats. these boats were polled -- along the current of the potomac. they got as much out of the current as they could. here is the building site. the carvers and the stone dressers. the stones were dressed, then they were evaluated and if they didn't suit the superintendents, they were thrown out. so here these are the accepted ones in the
accepted size. they were only smooth on the side that would be seen. the rest were slightly what we call a rough. rough cast or quarry faced. here he is carving. what is so fascinating to me is he had the drawings, these big drawings that he did and they were full-scale. he would have the border -- it when under the whole window. that was all fitted together and it looked like one carving. this shows the skill of the men who built it. there were not many tools documented. the first tools were brought from two blacksmiths in georgetown and then there were some in baltimore and they ordered hundreds.
mainly chisels, they had all kinds of heads on them. here is a chisel that made a way of cutting down the stone and also some others. here is the pound are in the mallet. they ordered them in huge numbers from this place. here we are carving and ionic capital. carving the base of the window. here is my favorite picture. this shows everything practically. it shows the pencil molding and it shows the marks -- it wasn't
known about until the 19/5 these. when they finished a job, they were paid. they tried to put them on wages and they would not hear of it. they wanted to be on measurement. that is just for a quick example. the old way goes back to ancient egypt. probably farther than that. it would've been a piece of work this long. thank you. say it was a piece, along piece. before the work was done, a measure was appointed. collen williamson came back many times to measure, he was usually a friend and they agreed that whatever he said would be the price per --.
that would be agreed to by hogan. by these strange formulas they measured and figured the cubic content of the work. and the quality of the work. and the measurer would establish the price per. it was only disputable in court. i didn't find any in dispute in court. apparently it was handled very well. the scots didn't misbehave like the irish. [ laughter ] they were sober workmen. they finished everything on time and took care of everything themselves. this is in the cornice. it shows during the restoration the different levels of work. here is a cutout, a bad piece.
the house was built that way. well, here is a print from the library at oak spring. of the scottish rose which was introduced in 1780 and created a great sensation. i know there are a lot of roses now and empress josephine had her had one in her garden is. electrified garters in europe. the scottish rose. our stonecutters as you will see , from chuck jones and his work, adapted this. this was their trademark that they left at the white house. it is everywhere. there's the big rose. they are all a little windblown if you notice. there's a little effort to make them windblown.
this is a 14 foot swag over the front door that general washington loved. the scots did that to please him. it is everything you could imagine in this carving. acorns, ribbons, bows, the works. that was the finest example i think known in the united states for many years. today you leave the white house and you don't see it. you go out the north door and most people don't turn around and look. it is even dazzling to one who isn't interested. there is the rows up close. the scots were very proud of the rows, it set them up as gardeners in a world very interested in gardening in europe. this was the first i called them cabbage roses but it was the first rose that wasn't flat like the dogwoods that you see. it was the first one.
and the pride of scotland. here you see the fine work on the house, the pilasters. and especially interesting is this corner. the house has pallister's -- pilasters like that on three sides but not on the front. the front is smooth. you see how rich it is. with the medallions at the top and the balustrade. most of it is still there. the cornice that we see with the arched window. here is the south portico. this was built after the rest of the house, finished in 1824. funny enough, when it was cleaned, in the 80s, it
suddenly turned red. it wasn't the stone from the quarry anymore, it was from a quarry up the potomac which is read. it had been the original caller but it was used on the house in these later additions but it turned red and became the famous brownstone. that's what you see around and people love it. the senate building was built out of it. look at the virginia capital --
hoban claims that he did it. there are drawings of it. charles both fund had something to do with it. the famous boston architect. this was stone from bottom to top. it was added after the fire. the house was finished in 1798. it was whitewashed. they filled up the cracks in it so that in the winter like they did in edinburgh, it would not split in the water. then the cracks were left --
stonemasons were masons. he ordered a number of the stones be replaced and sent one to every masonic lodge in the united states. and canada and mexico. for their museums. they are all available and they are very proud of them. the house was rebuilt with steel and concrete and by no means bombproof. every room was work ton -- worked on from 1952. it is strong but not bombproof for our times. in the 1980s, president jimmy carter authorized the cleaning of the white house stone.
it was being painted every year. that was sort of bad. so under the direction of james mcdaniel, who was still a board member here, who is not that old -- at the white house historical association, under his direction they developed a means of cleaning the stone and preserving the stone. it is copied everywhere now. the stonemasons were mostly italian coming from the washington cathedral. the house was repainted. everything was repainted and repainted with a spray gun. with a modern spray gun. it was a rather light coat of white on the house but it is not white, it is yellow.
it is a pale yellow. the white house we hope will age that way. thank you. >> american history tv continues tonight in prime time on c-span3. starting at 8 pm eastern a discussion with reformer white house photographers. we will see public and behind the scenes photos from the bill clinton, george w. bush, and barack obama presidencies. tonight at 8 pm eastern here on c-span3. sunday at 4 pm eastern, on new america, the president 1968 , a film detailing the to melt with month of june 1968 and the
naval photographic unit. covering the activities of president lyndon b. johnson. >> at 3:30 am the president was awaken with the news that senator robert kennedy in the mist of victory in the california primary, had been shot and critically wounded. >> today the senator's death, the president sent the letters to the speakers of the house which implored congress to enact a meaningful and effective gun control law. in june, much of the president's attention was centered on the paris peace talks. all around the month, cyrus vance returned to washington to report on an apparent impasse at those meetings. from vietnam however the reports were ominous. instead of a slow down in hostilities as a result of the peace negotiations, the communist had launched a massive new wave of assault throughout the south. grasped levers in the diplomatic
struggle. a news conference on june 26, the president announced that the supreme court chief justice earl warren was retiring. in making his third and fourth appointments to the high court, the president new that his judges would affect the destiny of the nation long after he himself had left office. >> watch reading america, this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. help of our sudden link cable partners as we explore lubbock's literary scene and history. saturday at noon eastern on book tv. author sean cunningham with his book american politics in the post where sunbelt? -- >> billions and billions of dollars are being poured into the south and the southwest to create this new development,
defense oriented society that is both cognitive oh -- pursuing free-market dreams at home. it creates this kind of mill you of the american southwest that reinforces a lot of the ideas of american ingenuity and hard work and a commitment to fighting. >> on sunday at 2 pm eastern on american history tv. we visit the buddy holly center to hear about the lubbock native and his musical legacy. >> the city is very proud of the fact that he was born and raised here. it will keep his voice alive and keep his musical life. new minden a visit to the vietnam center and archive located at texas tech
university. the center is home to the largest collection of vietnam related material outside of the national archives. >> we've got a lot of different types of equipment that veterans would carry. the things they carried if you will from the first-aid kits, the c rations, the radios, the helmet that veterans would wear, that they would wear, this pot that would protect them from shrapnel. >> city tour of lubbock texas on c-span three book tv. and sunday at 2 pm, on american history tv on c-span3. working with their cable affiliate as we explore america. the center is back from their fourth of july recess on monday at 3 pm eastern, senators will consider the nomination of former hawaii attorney general mark bennett. to serve on the federal appeals court based in san francisco. at 5:30 pm on monday, the
senate will take a procedural vote on that nomination and another procedural vote on the nominee to be the pentagon's general counsel. when the senate is back in session on monday, live coverage on the companion network c-span two. i think fdr used this place as a place to bring real leaders up and let their guard down and focus on some of the major issues that they were there to talk about springwood is the same way. when you walk into these buildings, you didn't have queens and careens -- kings and prime ministers, you came in as a friend. coming to a home as a friend is different than walking into a place of business as a colleague. so going into the white house with fdr